Head of 'Mercaz HaRav' Lends Support to Rabbi Melamed

Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, Head of Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, called upon Hesder rabbis to unite behind Har Bracha Yeshiva in crisis with Defense Ministry.

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Rochel Sylvetsky and Gil Ronen, | updated: 18:56

Rabbi Yaakov Shapira
Rabbi Yaakov Shapira
Mercaz HaRav

The Head of Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, has joined the growing list of rabbis who have expressed their support for Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, Head of Har Bracha Hesder Yeshiva, in the crisis between that yeshiva and the Ministry of Defense.   

Rabbi Yaakov Shapira is the son of Rabbi Avraham Elkana Shapira of blessed memory, who preceded him as head of Mercaz HaRav. Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem was established in 1924 by luminary rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook  and is considered by many to be the most influential Zionist religious yeshiva. It is not a Hesder yeshiva.

Rabbi Shapira sent a letter Friday to the heads of the Hesder yeshivas country-wide, in which he asked them to stand behind Rabbi Melamed, after the Defense Ministry announced it would no longer include Har Bracha Yeshiva in the Hesder arrangement combining Torah study with military service. The Hesder yeshiva heads will gather Sunday to decide what position to take in the crisis, which is perceived by some as a conflict of cultures between secular values and religious ones.

The letter reads thus:

To the heads of the Hesder Yeshivot who are gathering in honor of those who study and disseminate Torah, may the Almighty watch over you.

"Say to wisdom, you are my sister" [from Proverbs – ed.]

As the Holy Torah is our sister, a sister to all of us, I allow myself to write you these brief words in order to strengthen those who are already steadfast in their beliefs.

The eyes of myriad Torah scholars are turned to their teachers everywhere, particularly with regard to the current issue, awaiting their opinion with unwavering loyalty.

They recoil at the thought that any rabbi, teacher, educator, or yeshiva head could be prevented by limitations imposed from  outside the Torah world, from saying what he thinks about an issue,  and expect that erroneous impression to be changed.

Such an impression might, G-d forbid, lower the ascendancy of Torah, which must be inherently independent of other forces. Despite differences of opinion here and there, the honor of Torah is above all. From an educational point of view, moreover, we all surely agree that it is forbidden to minimize the Torah's power or to give the impression that the Torah is not entirely independent.

Therefore, I back all the Torah-true decisions you make, and truly wish you G-d's help in your efforts to quell the flames that were ignited and to stoke the smoking coals around them, this in order that the coals of Torah scholars do not scorch their surroundings. May you strengthen one another's resolve, for the sake of His nation, His Torah, and His Land.

I applaud your decision to meet together, as one, today.

Yaakov Shapira, son of the late Rabbi Avraham Elkana Shapira, Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, Jerusalem